In October 2011 I went on a ghost tour through Brooksville, Florida to experience the history of a city lost in time but to also get in the mood of one of my favorite holiday’s “Halloween”. What I didn’t know was that this tour would change my life forever.
We were in a haunted cemetery, one which I won’t name, when we came to the last stop before the tour was over. This stop was at this marble mausoleum. The interned’s name was engraved across the top and the doors keeping the world out were made of marble as well with a skeleton key locking it.
The tour guide said that around this crypt you can hear a woman cry however nobody quite knows why although they speculate on the exact cause. This particular grave is legendary because it’s a true “Romeo and Juliette” love story of our time.
Here is that story…
In 1914 the husband of the now widow died. In life he was her everything. She lived for him loving him with every beat of her heart. They created a family together and were inseparable. He adored her, she adored him and that love would bond them together so strongly that even death could not break it.
Regardless his death broke her apart. She decided to have her husband laid in this glass top casket that way when he was placed in the crypt she could visit him and watch over him. Even though he was dead, she wanted to see his face because living without it even in his corpse state was too much to bear.
Over the next several years she visited as much as she could, sitting by him and watching over the man she loved in his most vulnerable state loving him as much as when he was alive.
In 1924 his wife fell gravely ill and eventually passed away. Upon her death her children received the will with her last wishes. Included in the last will was her disposal request. She insisted on being buried in a glass casket as her husband. She was to be entombed inside the crypt on the other side of the crypt just sitting a bit higher so that if she could turn her head she could look down inside her husbands casket and watch over him still as she did for so many years.
Her children were not thrilled their father was in a glass top casket so the thought of having their mother in one was chilling them to their bones. They decided to go against her last wishes and laid her to rest in a traditional casket. She was entombed next to her husband on the adjacent wall, but the children walled up her casket inside a marble wall. They decided to leave their father the way he was since it was already like it and didn’t want to disturb him.
After I heard that story I went to the back of the crypt where there is a window and looked inside. Sure enough there is his casket with dead flowers on the top and her side of the crypt is walled up. That sight stuck in my head, branding that vision in my memory forever.
I asked the tour guide if anyone has ever been inside. She told me once and that you can see her husband’s corpse which looks mummified now. The grounds keepers keep flowers on the top of the casket so people that look into the window like I do can’t see the body and fall into shock.
As I drove home I couldn’t stop thinking of that story. As I went to bed it continued to stick inside my mind. I had a dream that I was walking outside of this crypt when her spirit stops me, begging for my help. I told her I didn’t know what to do and she continued to cry.
This dream happened for several weeks. I had to help I just didn’t know how. I became obsessed with getting in that crypt and seeing this casket and taking photos of it. I contacted the cemetery but they refused to allow me inside; instead they told me to search out and find a relative. I searched for weeks but was unable to find one that I could speak to. I thought it was going to be hopeless.
Those that know me well enough knows I won’t give up. So I decided to go around the cemetery workers, around the family and make this picture I was compelled to make. I grabbed Katie “Willow” Marcotte to play his wife.
I stood outside of the window pressing my lens against the glass. I was very careful not to move since I had to give it a longer exposure. The glass was so dirty that if I used flash it would over expose the photo; so hanging on by my toes on a 10 degree ledge was quite the challenge but I managed to get the photo.
Then I found a cemetery stone close by that had about the same curve as the casket lid and I had Katie pose on it. When I combined the two I created what you see here above this story in a piece I call “I Love You Always” in honor of the love these two shared.
I can’t change her situation of being walled up or in a traditional casket. I can however portray her vision she wanted when she died and immortalize her love and dedication to the man that she adored for the world to see using his exact casket.
Once I published the photo the dreams stopped. I don’t hear the crying around the grave either as I go back often to visit. People are shocked by the photo but find it very beautiful and calming even if they don’t know this story.
When you see this photo it gives the woman her wish that was 90 years neglected and immortalizes her love story that lasted through death for the world to see. It’s the best I could do to help a spirit rest after 90 years.
So when you see this picture remember love is the one thing strong enough to surpass death and it’s the ONLY thing you can take with you when you die. As long as people know the love you have, you are never truly gone.